Yes but are they any good?
THE Chelsea-Arsenal clash last weekend was a curate’s egg of a game: Chelsea were absolutely abysmal and the Goners (sic) were by far the better side and yet for all their undoubted dominance, the league leaders only worked the Chelsea keeper once and needed a freak corner to find the net at all.
BORDERING ON CRIMINAL
It was bad enough giving the World Cup to Russia but to then compound things by awarding the 2022 tourney to Qatar was the ultimate in criminality by the felons of Fifa.
The Qataris claimed they could run a summer tournament and yet as soon as the ink was dry on the decision and the dollars salted away in Swiss banks they changed their minds and voila, we have a November World Cup.
Which is why I had to laugh a few months back when a scribe in the Daily Mail proclaimed that the 2022 World Cup was England’s best chance in decades because in November our players would be in peak physical condition. I wonder now whether that scribe has had second thoughts on that conclusion?
SPEAKING OF WHICH
Who said this: “It was a bad choice and I was responsible for that as president at the time”; Qatar is “too small of a country” to host the tournament; and that “Football and the World Cup are too big for it”. The speaker is of course Sepp Blatter belatedly offering a mea culpa 10 years after that shameful decision. Bit late I’m afraid but there’s still time for then-Uefa president Michel Platini to explain how his bloc’s four votes sent the tournament to Qatar, but then I don’t think Platini does humility.
A Labour MP and Hillsborough survivor has called on the FA to take action to stamp out the “rise in offensive chanting by rival fans about Hillsborough” when their teams are playing Liverpool.
He says such chants are “deeply offensive and distressing, particularly to survivors and the families of the deceased”.
It goes without saying that he’s right, but the last I heard it’s not yet an offence in football to upset people, nor is it a situation that can be stamped out any time soon (yet, you never know given the government’s and plod’s Orwellian tendencies).
On the other hand his case would be made stronger if his own club came down on those who taunt Manchester United over Munich and put their hands up over Heysel. Glass houses and all that.
SPEAKING OF WHICH
Did you know that last weekend was “National Silent Support weekend”?
Neither did I but when I heard about it I first thought it was April 1, and having seen that it was actually November 5 I checked and found out it was an initiative from the FA to discourage parents cheering on their kids at youth games while saying nasty things to the opposition.
Good luck with that, but what I want to know given the piece above re Liverpool, and in fairness every other club, is do they dare try it at senior level?
TEAM OF THE WEEK
Jordan Pickford Everton, Matty Cash Villa, William Saliba Arsenal, Sven Botman Newcastle, Lucas Digne Villa, Bruno Guimares Newcastle, James Maddison Leicester, Marcus Tavernier Bournemouth, Darwin Nunez Liverpool, Jacob Ramsey Villa, Wilfried Zaha Palace.
Manager: Unai Emery Villa. I know it’s only one game, but that was the most cohesive performance I’ve seen from Villa for many a month.
Player of the week: Marcus Tavernier. OK, so for the second week on the bounce Bournemouth blew a two-goal lead, but the lesser known brother of the Rangers captain scored the Cherries’ first goal at Leeds and made the other two.
Saliba and Maddison were in the frame, but Chelsea made it far too easy for the Frenchman while Maddison merely continued his first-rate season. Gareth Southgate take note.
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
Premier League today 2:30; Citeh vs Brentford. 5pm; Bournemouth vs Everton, Liverpool vs Southampton, Forest vs Palace, Spurs vs Leeds, West Ham vs Leicester. 7:30; Newcastle vs Chelsea. 9:45; Wolves vs Arsenal. Tomorrow 4pm; Brighton vs Villa. 6:30; Fulham vs United.
Selected Championship today 5pm; Luton vs Rotherham, Norwich vs Middlesbrough, West Brom vs Stoke. Tomorrow 2:30; Burnley vs Blackburn.
Selected Scotland today 2:30; St Mirren vs Rangers. 5pm; Celtic vs Ross County, Hearts vs Livingstone, Kilmarnock vs Hibs.
Games to watch: with this being the last set of fixtures before Christmas week, all the clubs will be wanting to end this part of the season on a high, none more so than Arsenal.
It would be a massive boost for the club to enter the Christmas period still ahead of Pep’s Citeh and they will definitely fancy their chances at goal-shy Wolves.
Top four gate-crashers Newcastle will be hoping that Chelsea will still be as abysmal at St James’ as they were at home to the Goners last weekend, while Spurs, still ruing their unjust defeat by Liverpool, will want to maintain their top-four status against Leeds.
F1 Brazilian Grand Prix tomorrow 8pm. I read an interesting stat the other day which highlighted the fact that between them Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari have won 179 out of the last 181 grand prix (98.9 per cent). Can anyone really say that that is a healthy situation in a supposedly competitive sport?
Last week’s question: which ex-QPR and Fulham manager played and scored in an FA Cup giant-killing many years previous that rivalled the feat of Ronnie Radford and Hereford against Newcastle?
The man in question was Alec Stock who as player-manager at Southern League Yeovil masterminded the 2-1 win over “Bank of England” club Sunderland in 1949.
This week: What connects the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Tyne Bridge, Pauline Fowler, and Cyril Knowles?
IT HAD TO HAPPEN
A Welsh friend upbraided me the other day for misspelling that
ridiculously long-named place in Wales (I’m not typing it out again) last week; apparently I missed out an ‘a’.
Fair enough, I try for accuracy but sometimes get it wrong and I hold my hands up to any errors on my part.
So in the interests of reciprocity I invited him to spell the damn thing and lo and behold he got eight letters wrong! A small victory for me, but a massive one for antipedantry.